Baylor and Beyond LLC encourages students to engage with Waco, the world

Atlanta sophomore Sammi Baez shares her experience as a mixed race person to guests at Tuesday's bi-weekly neighbor night event at the Bobo run by the Department of Mulitculural Affairs. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Corrie Coleman | Reporter

Baylor and Beyond is a living learning community (LLC) in North Russell Hall that encourages students from diverse backgrounds to engage with the world. Its mission, “deeply rooted and branching out,” means that the LLC helps students get involved at Baylor and in Waco while pushing them to become informed and compassionate global citizens.

Through events like urban missions projects, “cultural cooking” days and interfaith worship nights, this LLC helps connect students across cultural boundaries.

Holly Joyner, Baylor and Beyond Program Director, said many students who choose to live in the Baylor and Beyond LLC are already interested in issues such as racial reconciliation and global politics. She believes this often creates an environment where healthy conversations about controversial topics can happen with ease.

Joyner also said because Baylor and Beyond events are typically smaller than other university events, they are able to talk about issues in more depth.

“Last month, we did Black History events,” Joyner said. “There were a lot of larger events going on but … We got to do some events that were a little bit more charged than maybe the larger ones … We really got to some harder issues like police brutality and racial bias in the media.”

Joyner hopes that Baylor and Beyond spurs students to step out of their comfort zone and learn about the world from another person’s point of view.

“Our mission is to create students who are broadening outside of the baylor bubble,” Joyner said. “Hopefully, through their time here … they realize how important it really is to consider [the world] from another person’s perspective.”

Katy senior Ana Villagran said she chose to live in Baylor and Beyond because of her interest in international issues. She said the LLC provided her with opportunities to build relationships with people from other cultures and learn about global issues while also getting involved in the Waco community.

“In my experience, it truly was a gateway to both the Waco community and the world,” Villagran said. “It provides a platform and the resources for you to explore things that are not necessarily tied to your major.”

Villagran said Baylor and Beyond played a large role in her decision to change her major from biochemistry to international studies.

“I came in as a biochemistry student and it just wasn’t something that I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I think being in that place where diversity and culture and languages are celebrated led me to choose international studies in the end,” Villagran said. “It helped me realize what I was really passionate about.”

Villagran said she believes the cultural diversity and respectful conversations found in Baylor and Beyond has helped her develop her opinions and learn to listen respectfully to others.

“You come in with your beliefs and values and your opinions … but I have learned to be more willing to listen to others and engage with other people’s opinions,” Villagran said. “It’s opened up my eyes to perspectives I hadn’t considered before.”

Albuquerque, N.M., junior Adriana Herrera has lived in Baylor and Beyond for all three years of her time at Baylor. As the service chair for the LLC, Herrera leads weekly kids clubs at Brazos Village Apartments and Viento Fuerte Church.

“The opportunities at Baylor and Beyond to be involved on the Baylor campus and in the Waco community are just hard to find in other places,” Herrera said.

Herrera said Baylor and Beyond fosters a willingness to learn about other cultures and listen to new points of view.

“There’s more openness to having conversations about cultural humility and race relations [in Baylor and Beyond],” Herrera said. “Learning that your way of thinking is not the only way of thinking, being able to share different experiences and realize our commonalities … My Baylor experience would be completely different if I didn’t have that.”

Herrera said that her faith prompts her to build meaningful relationships with people who are different than her.

“As a Christian wanting to serve people and love people,” Herrera said. “you can’t do that until you know people, until you’re able to sit with them and learn from them and experience life with them.”